Shanghai – Aston Martin Racing has won the final round of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the Six Hours of Shanghai, to finish second in the highly competitive GTE Pro championship standings.
The team’s maiden WEC race win tops off a superb run of six consecutive podium finishes to prove the pace and reliability of the V8-powered Vantage GTE.
Having never before raced at the 5.4km circuit, the team was uncertain just how well suited the #97 Vantage GTE would be to the Shanghai International Circuit.
After the first free practice session it was clear that the abrasive surface and long straights would enable works drivers Darren Turner (GB) and Stefan Mucke (D) to get the most out of the Gulf-liveried racer, but its rivals appeared to be similarly well suited as just fractions of a second separated them.
Turner approached the 20-minute qualifying session with a simple plan; set a competitive lap time early on while tyres were at their peak before quickly returning to the garage to preserve them for the start of the race.
His first flying lap stopped the clock at 2.03.721, which turned out to be the fastest GTE lap of the entire weekend and enough to earn the team pole position by more than half a second ahead of its championship runner-up rival, the #77 Porsche.
When race day came, fog covered the circuit causing the pre-race warm up session to be cancelled. However, as the morning passed so did the fog and at 10am local time Mücke assumed his position at the front of the GTE grid.
Mucke lost a place to the #77 Porsche away from the lights having been held up by an LMP2 car. However, after 17 laps of gripping wheel-to-wheel racing, the Aston Martin works driver regained the lead and used the Vantage GTE’s class-leading race pace to pull away from his rival.
Turner and Mucke pushed hard during their one-hour stints to extend the advantage. By the mid-way point of the race, the Vantage GTE was leading the #51 Ferrari by 11.4 seconds with the third-placed Porsche by more than 50 seconds adrift.
As the race progressed into its final hours, Turner and Mucke had established a lead of more than a minute. As Mucke handed the Vantage GTE over to Turner for the final time, the Briton emerged from the pit lane directly behind the #77 Porsche.
Unsure if it would need to stop once more for fuel, Turner muscled his way past to regain the lead of the GTE field, one that he wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the race.
Turner crossed the finish line for the final time after 169 laps of the circuit to record Aston Martin Racing’s maiden WEC victory and ensure it retained second position in the championship standings.
Darren Turner comments: “We’ve had an amazing weekend. This result is a great reward for everyone’s efforts. The car has been at the sharp end in every race and the guys here have got faster and faster in the pit stops.
It’s a true team effort and they should all be proud of what has been achieved here. What a way to end the season!”
Stefan Mücke adds: “The Vantage GTE was competitive from the start of the season when we achieved a podium in Sebring. Since then it has improved every race.
The team has worked hard to get the most out of the car and it has been really exciting to go from third, to second to winning. I’m sure this is a sign of things to come for Aston Martin for next year.
“As for this race, it was one of the most enjoyable of the year. It’s great to end a fantastic season on such a high.”
Team Principal, John Gaw adds: “What a fantastic way to finish the season. We came here with the goal of beating the Porsche and aiming for a win and to come away with both is a great achievement for the team.
The engineers employed a short fill strategy, which, coupled with consistent driving from Darren and Stefan and a well-prepared car, enabled us to extend our lead throughout the race.
“For the last three rounds of the championship, we’ve changed pit stop routines and personel and it’s improved our performance versus our competitors by a significant number of seconds.
“Our objectives for our return year to GT racing were to be competitive and score podiums and we can return to Banbury confident that we have achieved and exceeded these – we’ve finished seven out of the eight races and scored podiums on all of those.
Everyone involved in the team this year should be very proud and we thank them all for their hard work and commitment.
“We’d also like to thanks the WEC organisers for putting on a fantastic series this year and hope to return again in 2013.”
Across the eight rounds of the inaugural WEC season, during which the #97 Vantage GTE has competed at iconic race tracks such as Le Man’s Circuit de la Sarthe and Sebring International Raceway, the V8-powered racer has performed reliably and competitively to rack up an impressive tally of seven podiums.
It has covered more than 11,000km of trouble-free racing during more than 62 hours of highly-competitive action.
The 2012 season marked Aston Martin’s return to GT racing; a discipline in which the marque has enjoyed huge success, most notably winning the GT class at Le Mans in both 2007 and 2008.
The Vantage GTE is based on the road-going Vantage; the sportiest model in the prestigious marque’s line-up.
Source:Aston Martin Racing